Christ was regarded as an agitator by many of the religious and political leaders of his time. The religious order, in particular, was threatened by him due to his growing influence. Consequently, its leaders conspired to have him killed.
With the help of Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed him, they successfully manoeuvered to have Jesus arrested, tortured, and then executed by crucifixion. It was a brutally violent and bloody affair, complete with betrayal and abandonment. And as I reflect on this horrible scene of the Easter story, I repeatedly arrive at the same conclusion. I did it; I killed Christ.
According to the gospels, this carpenter from Nazareth claimed to be the long awaited messiah, Son of the living God. The gospels claim that he was the perfect man, the only one untainted by sin, and that as a result, death could not hold him. They claim that his perfection is what made him the only suitable substitute for sinners, those who have transgressed against divine law, and that he voluntarily took the punishment they deserve for their iniquity.
Naturally, this raises a great many questions, not the least of which is, “Am I tainted by iniquity and therefore deserving of punishment?” Jesus himself summed up the entirety of divine law into one rule, known as the golden rule, which is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Surely then, the golden rule can be used as an accurate metric to measure my iniquity.
In an effort to do so, I asked myself a series of questions. Have I ever wronged anyone? Have I ever failed at safeguarding my heart, mind, and body from that which is harmful? Have I ever failed at guarding my tongue from destructive speech? Have I ever failed at living up to the required standards of a given relationship? To all of these questions I could only answer in the affirmative, and thus conclude that I have transgressed against divine law, and that I am indeed tainted with iniquity.
If the gospel’s claims are true, then my guilt has serious implications on what happened that day. If Christ indeed took the punishment for the sin of all mankind, then it would seem that the crucifixion is not an event bounded by time, but one that transcends it, one in which we participate this very day. In other words, every time I cede an inch to my wayward inclinations, I give Christ one more lash on his already skinless back; I give one more strike to the spikes found in his hands and feet; I push the crown of thorns a little deeper into his already bloody skull; and I twist and push the spear a little deeper into the flesh of his broken side. And then, as if that weren’t enough, I mock him and spit on him as well.
And while I violently lash out against Christ, while he hangs in agony on a cross, what does he do? He pleads to God for forgiveness on my behalf! I’m speechless! Who does he think he is – The Son of God?
And then it dawns on me – how better to expose my iniquity than to let it lash out against that which is good and pure? How better to expose it than to have it collide with its complete opposite. I surely am a monster. I surely am deserving of punishment, but instead I am shown perfect love, mercy, and forgiveness, and herein lies the essence of the Easter story.
With my iniquity now exposed, what should I do? I would love to say with confidence that I will henceforth be without sin, and that I will never again participate in the killing of Christ. But I don’t believe I can. The best I can say is that, as I go forth in the world I will strive to be upright, that when I falter I will seek to make things right, and that I will be grateful for that which was given to me at great cost; that which I do not deserve.
(Kevin Richard is a freelance Quebec writer and Discourse Online contributor)